Following the events of Spectre and a pulse-pounding opening sequence, James Bond is enjoying retirement in Jamaica; at least until an old friend from the CIA, Felix Leiter, persuades Bond into accepting a mission that throws him back into the world of international espionage. From there, the plot twists and turns until Bond and those closest to him find themselves in direct conflict with the film’s new supervillain, Safin, played by a delightfully devilish Rami Malek.
Originally slated for a 2019 release with Danny Boyle at the helm, No Time to Die has faced more than its fair share of roadblocks. Eventually departing due to creative differences, Boyle was replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga, a director more known for his work in television than on the big screen. However, Fukunaga delivers a directorially solid film. Action sequences are exhilarating yet easy to follow and character moments, particularly between Bond and his returning love interest Madeleine Swan (played passionately by Léa Seydoux) are shot tenderly, overcoming the fact that the natural chemistry between the two actors still isn’t great.
Seydoux’s performance as a woman still haunted by her upbringing as a daughter of Spectre, and the consequences that entails as well as her connection to Bond, makes Madeleine Swan a far more interesting character than she was in the film Spectre. MI6’s main players also return. Moneypenny, Tanner and Q in particular are as delightful as always. Ralph Fiennes plays a more morally ambiguous M; whose utilitarian approach puts him at odds with Bond for a stretch of the film. Lashana Lynch’s new 00 is an exciting addition, as is Ana de Armas’ Paloma, whose appearance in the film is disappointingly brief. A tense extended cameo from Christoph Waltz's Blofeld is captivating, acting as the Hannibal Lecter to Bond’s Clarice Starling.
While I don’t think it quite reaches the heights of some of Craig’s other entries into the franchise, No Time to Die is still an excellent film
The main villain, however, isn’t quite as compelling. Rami Malek does well with what he’s given, offering us a creepy and undoubtedly evil antagonist, but he isn’t given a lot. Especially in the way of motivation and ideology. He’s a villain more in line with those of the Connery era: with an island lair, an absurd plan and an over-the-top superweapon.
Safin, or his outlandish plot, however, are not the focus of the film. No Time to Die is Daniel Craig’s movie through and through. Whilst he’s consistently been excellent, despite the varying quality of the movies he’s starred in, this film might showcase Craig’s best performance as the raffish super spy yet. Craig imbues Bond was pathos and humanity, yet he’s still suave, charismatic and witty. Hidden behind a wry smile, there’s a great sadness to Craig’s Bond. The fact that he can’t let go of the betrayal and loss he faced in Casino Royale is communicated exceptionally through his performance, humanising a character often criticised for being too inhuman.
Equal parts a conclusion to Daniel Craig’s run as 007 and a love letter to classic Bond, No Time to Die is simultaneously an incredibly entertaining film which feels like half its near 3-hour runtime and a bittersweet goodbye to my personal favourite Bond. With a reference to a vintage series entry right before the credits, it’s enough to put a tear in the eye and a smile on the face of any Bond fan. While I don’t think it quite reaches the heights of some of Craig’s other entries into the franchise, No Time to Die is still an excellent film and a fitting finale to Craig’s interpretation of - and time as - Bond, James Bond.